As a child, growing up in China, Mozhi (Leila) Li spent her time with a piece of paper and a pencil rather than dolls and toys. She was fascinated by drawing and the worlds and characters she could take from her head and turn into reality through art. Every person she drew, she made sure to design elaborate outfits for them, believing that was always the part that required the most focus and attention. Rather than growing out of this hobby, Li’s passion only intensified. She began drawing just clothing without any figures, noticing fashion in the streets and costumes in her favorite movies and television shows. When she was a teenager and began to work backstage in various school productions, she instantly knew what her calling was: costume design, her favorite childhood pastime turned career.
Now, Li is a sought-after costume designer and wardrobe stylist both in her home country and abroad. She has worked alongside prolific musicians, including Chinese pop sensation Jason Zhang, and award-winning filmmakers, visually captivating audiences around the world through clothes. Her work on films like Where Dreams Rest, Zero, Dog Eat Dog, and Li Shan contributed to their vast success at prestigious international film festivals.
“There is more room to be creative in the costume design field compared with fashion design, but with the analysis of the character and script, it sometimes makes things more challenging. That’s what I love about costume design, it is the most perfect combination between design and literature, and a large amount of real-life experience and historical research. It’s for people who love people and life and who also pay attention to every moment they have in life. It’s really a unique and amazing job,” said Li.
2018 was quite the year for Li. Not only did she work on several acclaimed films, she was a part of many high budget commercials and produced her first wardrobe showcase in October. In November, she also worked with Yitai Wang, a Chinese rapper from Chengdu, one of many cities in the country where hip-hop music is gaining popularity. Li worked with the popular musician on his latest music video “Shout It Out”.
“It’s a hip hop themed music video, and I personally think the talent is a great singer. I was nice to style him for his first music video,” said Li.
The video was shot at a church, which shot beautifully on camera. There were large amounts of religious costume rentals that needed to be done for background talents, and Li was ready for the task. She had to do lots of research including interviewing others to make sure the presentation was religiously accurate while still maintaining Wang’s vision. She also had to do all of this in a limited timeline, as she only got two days to prep after some last minute changes. The end result is stunning costumes put together with Li’s unique and talented eye.
“The location of the church was marvelous. It inspired me with colors and ideas for the costumes. It was exciting. The video is a great combination of music and the story of the singer himself,” she said.
“Shout it Out” debuted in November of last year on YouTube and has fans from all over the world appreciating both the song and the artistry of the video. For Li, it feels amazing to see that so many people have viewed the video on a public platform.
“I feel so grateful to have been a part of such a fantastic collaboration of artists. It was a great experience,” said Li.